The year in review
Prior to the Special Procedure Law, consumers had been required to sue business operators individually to recover damages arising from a seller's misrepresentations and misstatement of warranties and other claims about products or services. Owing to significant financial and informational disparities between the parties, the system had been invariably advantageous to the business operators.
Therefore, the Japanese government had been considering the introduction of some kind of consumer collective action. It extensively reviewed and evaluated class action laws and bills worldwide. In particular, it critically assessed US class actions and adopted what it believed to be best practices suitable to Japanese culture and submitted these to the national Diet. It integrated the new system into Japan's judicial system for civil claims, which has the following characteristics:
- it is a civil law system. (Courts can interpret the statutes but only the legislature can make laws);
- there is no jury system in civil cases;
- there is no 'US-style' discovery outside court; and
- there are no punitive damages.
The first case was filed by Consumers Organisation of Japan on 17 December 2018 with Tokyo District Court in relation to unfair entrance examination conducted by Tokyo Medical University (the TMU case).